AFC Wimbledon’s unbeaten away run in the league was extended to seven games today with goalkeeper James Shea making excellent saves near the end.
Though Wimbledon had the better of the 0-0 draw for long spells, Shea was needed to defy Oldham near the end as Neal Ardley’s men secured a hard-fought point.
The Dons had chances to win it, particularly in the first-half with Jake Reeves coming closest to making a breakthrough.
Neal Ardley made three changes from the side that started in the FA Cup draw at Bury. Dannie Bulman, Dean Parrett and Tom Elliott earned recalls in place of Jon Meades, Tom Beere and Tyrone Barnett. With Jon Meades ruled out through injury, George Francomb was switched to left-back.
After establishing good early possession, Wimbledon threatened for the first time when Jake Reeves curled wide from just outside the area. Dean Parrett then tried his luck from long-range, but his effort was too close to Oldham goalkeeper Connor Ripley. Oldham struggled to create anything of note in the first-half against a well-drilled Dons defence. They finally fashioned an opportunity in the 24th minute when Cameron Dummigan and Ryan McLaughlin combined to set-up Billy McKay, but James Shea reacted well to save.
Wimbledon really upped the tempo just before the half hour mark with a period of domination that so nearly brought the reward of an opener. Lyle Taylor flashed a fierce shot just wide, before he then turned creator to put Reeves through one-on-one, but Ripley was out sharply off his line to save. As per usual, Tom Elliott offered a towering presence up front and he won a header in the area that so nearly set-up Taylor, but Ripley got there first. Parrett also curled just over the crossbar as Wimbledon attempted to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
Neal Ardley’s men enjoyed plenty of first-half possession and enough threat to provide encouragement of scoring in the second-half. Though Oldham had mainly been restricted to attacks on the break, they did have a good chance a few minutes before half-time. McLaughlin crossed from the right and Lee Erwin was there to meet the ball at the back post, but Shea got down well to save. It had been a solid first-half from Wimbledon, displaying all the hallmarks of a team unbeaten away from home in League One since the opening day.
The Dons opened brightly at the start of the second-half and a fine move so nearly brought the ultimate reward. Reeves was once again the instigator as he picked out Elliott in space down the right and his cross picked out Taylor, but his goal-bound shot was deflected agonisingly wide for Wimbledon. Forward momentum continued for Wimbledon and another fine move ended with Barcham picking out Reeves down the left and Elliott was just unable to get on the end of his cross as Ripley got there first.
Just after the hour mark, Wimbledon came so close to making the breakthrough when Parrett struck a lovely free-kick that Ripley couldn’t get anywhere near, but it just missed the top corner. As we approached the final 20 minutes, it was a tricky conundrum for Wimbledon. Though the points appeared to be there for the taking, Oldham had been most dangerous on the break and committing too many men forward would leave the Dons vulnerable. That was shown when McLaughlin was found in plenty of space on the right after a swift counter, but Francomb did his job well at left-back to block.
Neal Ardley introduced Chris Whelpdale with 16 minutes left, Barcham the man to make way. Another change quickly followed with Dominic Poleon given a chance to do damage against his former club in place of Parrett. Elliott had a chance with 11 minutes to play when he got on the end of a cross from Fuller, but his header was too high. The Dons were almost caught off guard when McLaughlin’s quickly taken free-kick picked out Ryan Flynn in space in the area, but Shea was once again off his line to save. The Dons goalkeeper then had to stay alert to turn away a fiercely struck drive from Ollie Banks.
As Wimbledon dropped deeper and deeper to deal with Oldham pressure, James Shea made a brilliant fingertip save and from the rebound, substitute Freddie Ladapo headed against the crossbar with Oldham appealing that it had crossed the line. Despite late home pressure, Wimbledon clung onto extend a fine unbeaten away run in the league.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Tyrone Barnett), Andy Barcham (Chris Whelpdale), Dean Parrett (Dominic Poleon), Lyle Taylor, Chris Robertson.